Lyric Theatre

213 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Lyric Theatre exterior

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The Lyric Theatre was built in 1903 and designed by Victor Hugo Koehler. The theater had two entrances, the larger facade being on the 43rd Street side, in a mix of Renaissance Revival styles, and the smaller facade, resembling a brownstone mansion, on 42nd Street. Both were heavily decorated with sculpture, including figures of goddesses, masks, and of course, lyres. The Adam/Empire style interior of the theater featured an auditorium with two balconies, 18 boxes, and gilded plasterwork. The color scheme was originally light green and rose.

The Lyric Theatre was initially to have been leased to composer Reginald DeKoven as home to his American School of Opera, but the school went bankrupt before the theater was completed. It ended up being leased instead to the Shubert brothers as a legitimate stage. The Lyric Theatre ended its legitimate days in 1934. In order to survive during the Depression, it joined many other 42nd Street houses in becoming a movie theatre. The Lyric Theatre remained a movie house until it closed in 1992 (by which time it was in poor shape). In 1996, after its remaining architectural elements were removed, it joined the neighboring Apollo Theatre in being razed.

Replaced by the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, which architectural fragments of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were reused in. Both 42nd and 43rd Street facades of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were also retained. Former Cineplex Odeon baron Garth Drabinsky envisioned the $36 million Ford Center as a home for his production of “Ragtime”, and would be the first new free-standing legitimate house built in Times Square in over 70 years. The Ford Center for the Performing Arts was later renamed the Hilton Theatre, and in 2011 became the Foxwoods Theatre. In May 2013 it was taken over by the British based Ambassador Theatre Group and was renamed Lyric Theatre in March 2014.

Some of the information here was found in the books “Lost Broadway Theatres” by Nicholas Van Hoogstraten and “Broadway Theatres” by William Morrison.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 98 comments)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I get the criticism, however. The theater swallowed up a lot of the comedy in Mel Brooks' musical version of “Young Frankenstein.” Admittedly, the show and production did have a few intrinsic problems of their own that had nothing to do with the house, but I felt that the size of the theater (as opposed to the smaller Richard Rodgers, where the more successful – and funnier – “The Producers” ran), caused the performances to reach even bigger and broader than is Brooks' usual style to sell the jokes up in the rafters, which squashed the life out of the humor. The set pieces looked wonderful on that big stage, however.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Oh, and I’m thrilled to have the name back in place over that marquee. Fitting, since the original Lyric’s entrance serves the same purpose for the new house.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 24, 2014 at 5:52 pm

So, the theatre was re-christened sometime in the last week or so. I have pics I’ve uploaded showing some of the new signage.

robboehm
robboehm on August 25, 2014 at 7:34 am

Glad they went with Lyric. The remaining facade on 43 Street is what it’s all about.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on September 16, 2015 at 8:06 pm

1953 photo added courtesy of Al Ponte’s Time Machine – New York Facebook page. If someone names the large theatre marquee on the left in the photo, I’ll post it on that page too.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on September 16, 2015 at 8:39 pm

That’s the New Amsterdam, of course.

TorstenAdair
TorstenAdair on January 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm

“… it joined the neighboring Apollo Theatre in being razed.” The Apollo’s marquee was on the other side of the Times Square theater. (The lineup was: [unknown], Rialto, Victory, Lyric, Times Square, Apollo…) Isn’t the Apollo and Times Square part of the vacant theater between the Lyric and American Airlines? Or did the Apollo have an entrance on 42nd, but the theater was on 43rd, much like the current Lyric?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 9, 2017 at 4:29 pm

The Apollo and Lyric combined into one theatre (now the Lyric). Both had entrances on 42nd street but the auditoria were on 43rd street. The Times Square was on 42nd street and remains vacant.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on January 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Does the B.B King club occupy any of the Times Square footprint?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 9, 2017 at 5:38 pm

No. B.B. Kings is further west, past the Selwyn (American Airlines).

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